Let’s talk about game difficulty

Should super-hard games like Dark Souls include an easy mode?

It’s a social media debate that’s been going on since FromSoftware’s new super-hard game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice launched, with zero resolution, one timeless meme, and two opposing sides:

NOOOOOOOOO!

  • Super-hard games are defined by, you know, being super-hard, and including an easy mode would entirely subvert the intended experience.
  • Finishing a super-hard game makes you super-special.
  • Using mods is lame, unless it’s nude mods (because boobz).
  • Git gud, noobs.

YES, PLEASE

  • A game is – or should be – much more than its level of difficulty, and if a game is defined by being super-hard and nothing else, maybe that’s… kind of shit?
  • Including an easy mode does not also mean excluding a super-hard mode.
  • Super-hard is not necessarily super-fun, and games are supposed to be fun.
  • Intentions matter, perhaps, but shouldn’t limit the experience. These are discrete concepts. And who actually thinks nude mods are part of the intended experience, anyway?
  • How do you git gud, if you can’t even get started.
  • Okay, but I suck.
  • SO EVEN WHAT OMG. Also, I suck.

For context, I don’t enjoy games like Dark Souls, because for me, the kind of repetition inherent in its difficulty level is boring. And I don’t mean learning through repetition – I finished most of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games on expert and Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with no kills and no alarms, for example, which involved a lot of repetition. Instead, it’s the repetition of, like, repetition, because repetition. Bosses in Dark Souls have about a million hit points, and beating one is not just about skill, it’s about the repetition of that skill, over and over and over. Which feels cheap and artificial to me. Would reducing boss hit points subvert the intended experience of the game? I don’t think so. And if it does, isn’t that a problem with the game, not me? I think so.

Your turn!

[UPDATE] This is a thought-provoking response from Nyk Spike Ryr on Facebook.

“Dark Souls does difficulty differently than other games. Its not just player damage values, frame data or enemy health pools. The difficulty is integrated into the game design in level design, enemy placement, obtuse story telling, multiplayer systems etc. Its very much core to the entire design philosophy. And to imply that the game is difficult for the sake of being difficult is a bit reductive.”

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